FIREFIGHTING in WA is set for a major shake up after new Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) boss Wayne Gregson revealed he was "gobsmacked" at the inadequacies within the organisation.
At a meeting with landowners in Boyup Brook at the weekend, Mr Gregson launched a scathing attack on the excessive levels of bureaucracy within FESA and the lack of adequate training.
He pledged to overhaul the beleaguered agency with a focus on frontline firefighting and plans to improve the communication between government departments and volunteer fire brigades.
Mr Gregson said he was astounded to discover upon starting the job five weeks ago that there were no uniformed FESA officers working in the top levels of the organisation.
"I was surrounded by bureaucrats, although FESA is no better or worse than other departments," he said.
"I'm not interested in managers, only leaders."
In comments that have been welcomed by regional fire brigades, Mr Gregson said FESA would throw as much money "as it could afford" at improving training for firefighters.
"I am gobsmacked at the lack of training across the emergency services service delivery and I'm not just talking about career firefighters, who seem to stop at station manager level, I'm talking about everybody who is involved in responding," he said.
He said he was not focused on who was fighting the fires, but rather that they be competent and experienced.
"I don't care if they're a member of the bushfire brigade, or from career fire and rescue or whether they're from the Country Women's Association," he said.
"What is needed is someone who has got some experience, training and competencies."
Mr Gregson was appointed to the role in the wake of Mick Keelty's damning report into February's devastating fires in the Perth Hills, which destroyed 71 homes.
Mr Gregson used Saturday's forum to send a strong message to his FESA colleagues, warning "if I can't change people, I will change the people."
The forum, which was organised by the Locals Against Wildfires (LAW) group and attended by 30 people, marked the first time a FESA boss had accepted an invitation to attend a bushfire meeting in rural WA.
LAW spokesman John Guest said Mr Gregson's comments marked a positive shift in the often fractious relationship between FESA and country fire brigades.
"He obviously wants to fix the problems, not dodge them," he said.
"It's very good that he's got down here to engage with people, between this and the Mick Keelty report, we believe we are moving in the right direction towards a better fire system."
Boyup Brook Shire president Terry Ginane, who also attended the meeting, was pleased changes were finally being made to FESA.
"It looks good but time will tell," he said.
"We have a very strong volunteer brigade and they just need to let us get on with it, and not interfere."
Veteran WA forester Roger Underwood, a former general manager of Conservation and Land Management (CALM), welcomed Mr Gregson's comments and said a cultural shift in the organisation was needed urgently.
"We believe the culture at the organisation is very different to where it should be at," Mr Underwood said.
"I don't see how (Mr Gregson) can make this change quickly, but we welcome the fact he's got an open mind and is prepared to get advice from people on the ground."